Vanderbilt joins 40 academic partners to create, deploy robotic technology in critical manufacturing sectors

Vanderbilt University is one of 40 academic partners in a new robotics manufacturing institute in Pittsburgh that will be funded with $80 million from the Department of Defense and $173 million in matching funds from more than 200 participating partners, including companies, local governments, academic and nonprofit organizations.

The Defense Department awarded the contract to Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM) Institute, a nonprofit venture led by Carnegie Mellon University. The institute is the 14th — the eighth led by the DoD — in the federal government’s wide-ranging Manufacturing USA program.

ARM said it will promote the use of robotics in small and medium enterprises and in critical manufacturing sectors like aerospace, automotive, electronics, logistics, composites, and textiles.

Eric Barth

Vanderbilt is a core university partner led by Eric Barth, associate professor of mechanical engineering.

“ARM brings together expertise from academia and industry with the goal of increasing the nation’s manufacturing footprint. It will do this by developing technology to empower the American worker to be more productive,” Barth said.

“Collaborative robotics is the key to solving manufacturing challenges that cannot be solved within cost and productivity constraints of human or robotic assets alone. Collaborative robotics will usher in a new age of manufacturing. We’re excited that faculty at Vanderbilt will team with our industry and other academic partners to help make this a reality,” Barth said.

Vanderbilt participants include H. Fort Flowers Professor of Mechanical Engineering Michael Goldfarb; Nilanjan Sarkar, professor of mechanical engineering; Nabil Simaan, associate professor of mechanical engineering; Karl Zelik, assistant professor of mechanical engineering; Thomas Withrow, associate professor of the practice of mechanical engineering; Kevin Galloway, research assistant professor of mechanical engineering; and Douglas Adams, Daniel F. Flowers Professor and chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Vanderbilt’s key partners include Bridgestone Americas, Inc., DENSO Manufacturing Tennessee, Inc., Bimba Manufacturing, Enfield Technologies, Innotronics, Luna Innovations Inc., National Fluid Power Association, Tennessee State University, and the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI).

Douglas Adams

“Our team at Vanderbilt has the interdisciplinary know-how and specialized facilities to address critical barriers for designing and deploying next generation breakthroughs in robotic systems to enable U.S. manufacturing,” said Douglas Adams.

ARM’s mission is to create and deploy robotic technology by integrating industry practices and institutional knowledge across many disciplines, the officials said. Such disciplines include sensor technologies, end-effector development, software and artificial intelligence, materials science, human and machine behavior modeling, and quality assurance.

Technologies ripe for significant evolution within the ARM institute include collaborative robotics, robot control – such as learning, adaptation, and repurposing – in addition to dexterous manipulation, autonomous navigation and mobility, perception and sensing, and testing, verification and validation, officials said.

ARM joins the Manufacturing USA institute network, which is a bipartisan program that brings together industry, academia and government to co-invest in the development of manufacturing technologies. Each Manufacturing USA institute focuses on a technology area critical to future competitiveness. In addition to robotics, other areas include 3-D printing, integrated photonics or tissue fabrication. Across the Manufacturing USA institutes, the federal government has committed over $1 billion, which has been matched by over $2 billion in non-federal investment.

Brenda Ellis, (615) 343-6314
Twitter @VUEngineering